Umckaloabo Pelargonium sidoides

👤 Non-toxic to humans
🐾 Non-toxic to pets
🌸 Blooming
🍪 Not edible
‍🌱 Easy-care
African geranium


Pelargonium sidoides, commonly known as South African Geranium, is a beautiful and unique perennial plant. It has a rosette-like growth pattern with somewhat rounded leaves that are softly hairy and have a heart or kidney shape. The foliage hue can vary, typically displaying a stunning greyish-green tone with darker purplish or brownish markings that might be more prominent along the veins. During its blooming season, the South African Geranium produces small but conspicuous flowers that are borne on long stems and appear above the foliage. The blossoms have a unique shape, with a rich, dark purple to almost black color that catches the eye. These flowers have five petals, with the upper two significantly larger than the lower three. The plant also has a slender, branching stem that supports both the leaves and flowers. The overall appearance of the South African Geranium is one that is both charming and somewhat wild, with a natural aesthetic that can vary markedly depending on the growing conditions and care it receives. Its robust nature and attractive blooms make it a favorite among gardeners and plant enthusiasts.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Family


    • Synonyms

      South African Geranium, Umckaloabo, African Geranium

    • Common names

      Geranium sidoides, Pelargonium reniforme Curtis.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Flower color


    • Height

      1-2 feet (30-60 cm)

    • Spread

      1-2 feet (30-60 cm)

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area

      South Africa


  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Ornamental Value: The dark green, slightly hairy leaves and the attractive mauve flowers make Pelargonium sidoides a popular choice for gardens and decorative indoor arrangements.
    • Drought Resistance: Adapted to survive in dry conditions, this plant requires minimal watering, making it a good option for water-wise gardens and for gardeners seeking low-maintenance plants.
    • Fragrance: The foliage of Pelargonium sidoides can have a pleasant scent, which adds an aromatic dimension to both indoor and outdoor environments.
    • Pest Resistance: It is known to be relatively resistant to pests, reducing the need for chemical insecticides, and making it favorable for organic or sustainable gardening practices.
    • Easy Propagation: Can be easily propagated from cuttings, which allows gardeners to expand their plant collection or share with others without needing to buy new plants.
    • Adaptability: It can adapt to a variety of growing conditions, including poor soils, making it an viable option for different garden settings and for novice gardeners.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    • Antibacterial: Pelargonium sidoides exhibits antibacterial properties against certain strains of bacteria.
    • Antiviral: It has shown effectiveness in the treatment of acute bronchitis and may have antiviral properties.
    • Immunomodulatory: The plant may influence the immune system, potentially supporting immune function.
    • Expectorant: It can help in relieving symptoms of respiratory conditions by aiding in the clearing of phlegm from the airways.
    • Anti-inflammatory: It possesses anti-inflammatory agents that can help reduce inflammation in various conditions.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • Pelargonium sidoides, commonly known as South African Geranium, can be used as a natural dye source for fabrics, giving them a range of earthy tones.
    • The plant's leaves can be infused in water to create a fragrant rinse for pets, giving them a fresh scent without the use of chemicals.
    • South African Geranium can be incorporated into potpourri mixes, contributing its pleasant aroma to the blend.
    • Dried leaves of Pelargonium sidoides can be used in decorative crafts such as wreath-making, providing an organic touch to home decor.
    • The plant can be planted as part of a garden border due to its attractive foliage and flowers, adding aesthetic value to garden design.
    • South African Geranium can serve as a companion plant in vegetable gardens to help disguise the crops’ scent and potentially confuse pests.
    • The aromatic leaves can be used to line drawers or closets, serving as a natural moth repellent and freshening up the space.
    • When used as ground cover, South African Geranium can prevent soil erosion in areas prone to loss of topsoil due to its spreading habit.
    • Its flowers can be used in edible landscaping; although not commonly consumed, they can add a splash of color to salads and desserts after ensuring they are free of pesticides.
    • Gardeners may use South African Geranium to attract beneficial insects like bees and butterflies, which are important pollinators for many plants.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    The South African Geranium is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    The South African Geranium is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Healing: Pelargonium sidoides, commonly known as South African Geranium, is often associated with healing due to its medicinal properties, particularly in treating respiratory ailments.
    • Protection: In traditional folk medicine, this plant has been used as a protective remedy to ward off illness and bad spirits, thus symbolizing safety and security.
    • Resilience: Given its ability to thrive in harsh environments, the South African Geranium can represent strength and the capacity to endure challenging circumstances.
    • Harmony: The pleasant scent of the South African Geranium is sometimes related to creating a harmonious and relaxing atmosphere, making it symbolic of balance and tranquility.

Every 1-2 weeks
500 - 2500 Lux
Every year
Spring to Summer
As needed
  • water dropWater

    The South African Geranium requires moderate watering, and it's essential to allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering again. Water the plant thoroughly until excess water drains out of the bottom, which might equate to approximately 8-16 ounces for a standard pot size every 5-7 days, depending on the environmental conditions. During the growing season, in spring and summer, you may need to water more frequently, while in the fall and winter, you should reduce watering to prevent root rot. Avoid letting the plant sit in standing water, and always check the soil moisture level before adding water.

  • sunLight

    South African Geranium thrives in bright, indirect sunlight. Place it near a window that receives ample light but is shielded from the harsh midday sun, such as an east-facing or west-facing window with some form of light diffusion. Direct sunlight can scorch the leaves, while too little light can lead to leggy growth and fewer flowers.

  • thermometerTemperature

    The South African Geranium prefers a temperature range between 65°F and 75°F for optimal growth. It can tolerate temperatures down to about 50°F but should be protected from frost, which could be fatal. High temperatures above 85°F might stress the plant, so it's best to avoid placing it in excessively hot environments.

  • scissorsPruning

    Prune the South African Geranium to maintain its shape and encourage bushier growth. Remove any dead or yellowing leaves and spent flowers to promote new blooms. Pruning is best done in the early spring before the new growth starts. Cut back leggy stems to about one-third of their length, which will help invigorate the plant and lead to more robust growth.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    Umckaloabo, commonly known as South African Geranium, thrives best in a well-draining soil mix with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. A good mix would be equal parts of loam, sand, and peat to provide the necessary drainage and aeration. Adding perlite or pumice can further enhance drainage and prevent root rot.

  • plantRepotting

    South African Geranium should be repotted every 2-3 years or when it outgrows its container. Choose a pot that is one size larger than the current one to allow for growth. Repotting is best done in spring or early summer when the plant is actively growing.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    South African Geranium prefers moderate humidity levels but is quite adaptable. It can tolerate indoor humidity levels which usually range from 40% to 50%. Avoid high humidity environments as they can promote fungal diseases.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Place South African Geranium in bright, indirect light indoors.

    • Outdoor

      Plant in well-draining soil; full sun to partial shade.

    • Hardiness zone

      9-11 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    Pelargonium sidoides, commonly known as South African Geranium or Umckaloabo, begins its life cycle as a seed, typically germinating in a warm and moist soil environment. After germination, the seedling emerges, developing its roots and first true leaves. As it enters the vegetative growth stage, it produces a rosette of deeply lobed leaves and begins to establish a strong root system. With sufficient light, water, and nutrients, the plant then advances to the flowering stage, during which it displays small, dark red to purple flowers. After pollination, which can be facilitated by bees and other insects, the plant sets seed in a capsule-like structure. The seeds can be dispersed by wind or water, ready to initiate the next generation of Pelargonium sidoides, and completing its life cycle.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Spring to Summer

    • The most popular method of propagating Pelargonium sidoides, commonly known as South African Geranium, is through cuttings. Typically, the best time to take cuttings for propagation is in the late spring or early summer when the plant is actively growing. To propagate, a healthy non-flowering shoot is selected and a cutting about 4 to 6 inches (approximately 10 to 15 cm) long is taken. The lower leaves are removed, and the cut end is dipped in a rooting hormone powder to encourage root development. The cutting is then planted in a well-draining soil mix and kept in a warm, bright place, but out of direct sunlight, to avoid scorching the tender new roots. The soil should be kept moist but not waterlogged to prevent rot. Roots usually develop within a few weeks, after which the new plant can be gradually acclimatized to normal growing conditions.